Understanding the functions encoded in the mouse genome will be central to an understanding of the genetic basis of human disease. To achieve this it will be essential to be able to characterize the phenotypic consequences of variation and alterations in individual genes. Data on the phenotypes of mouse strains are currently held in a number of different forms (detailed descriptions of mouse lines, first-line phenotyping data on novel mutations, data on the normal features of inbred lines) at many sites worldwide. For the most efficient use of these data sets, we have initiated a process to develop standards for the description of phenotypes (using ontologies) and file formats for the description of phenotyping protocols and phenotype data sets. This process is ongoing and needs to be supported by the wider mouse genetics and phenotyping communities to succeed. We invite interested parties to contact us as we develop this process further.